In November, 2012, visiting Ottawa just days before taking office, President Enrique Pena Nieto advanced the thesis that contacts between Mexico and Canada were close and productive, but that there still was room for improvement. As we celebrate 70 years of bilateral relations, trade is at an all-time high, our political dialogue is robust, and we are working hard to achieve our partnership’s true potential.
Our nations share a commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Both are multicultural and multilingual. At the international level, we have supported and co-operated in important initiatives on disarmament, humanitarian assistance, peace and security. Our governments have agreed to project our common values regionally and globally.
We are each other’s third-largest trading partner. Total commercial exchanges exceed $35-billion a year, and approximately 3,000 Canadian companies do business in Mexico. We are the second-largest tourist destination for Canadians, with 1.6 million visiting last year, a number that continues to trend upwards. These links among our civil societies drive our relationship forward.
We also have strong political and institutional mechanisms. There is NAFTA, of course, and also a successful Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, a Canada-Mexico Partnership that includes the private sector, and a comprehensive Joint Action Plan that has been periodically renewed. We work together to promote trade, investment, and tourism, as well as co-operation on security, education, innovation and other fields.
Where then can there be improvement between Canada and Mexico? First, Mexico has opened a new era of change that promises to spur growth both at home, in our relationship, and within North America. The Mexican Congress has adopted constitutional reforms on key sectors with great potential for co-operation between our countries, such as education, telecommunications and energy.
With these reforms, Mexico’s ability to attract foreign direct investment certainly increases. Also, the opportunity for larger investments from Mexican companies in Canada could rise. We can strengthen our inward complementarities and expand our outbound competitiveness. We should strive to become the most dynamic and competitive region of the world.
Mexico is also in the process of expanding its infrastructure. Canadian companies with a broad presence in Mexico can participate in the re-establishment of railroads in various parts of Mexico. Pharmaceuticals and food security are other areas in which Canadian investment can make a difference in Mexico. Canadian investment in the aerospace industry is already considerable. These are all win-win propositions.
The second avenue through which we can improve relations between Canada and Mexico is the deepening and broadening of our high-level dialogue and policy co-ordination, while supporting the growth of our people-to-people linkages. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s upcoming visit to Mexico will allow us to advance towards this goal at the bilateral and North American levels.
We have an opportunity to foster agreements and co-operation in areas of innovation, technology entrepreneurship, competitiveness, connectivity, and higher education. Mexico is the eighth country of origin of international students in Canada. Canadians ranks sixth among foreign students in Mexico. We share an interest in dramatically expanding the number of students, as is reflected in our respective national plans in this field.
Facilitating travel between our countries would be a very important step. We can also push forth by harmonizing regulations and standards in diverse sectors; agreeing on technical and educational equivalences; and working together and collaborating in trade negotiations, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). We should also consider the establishment of an investment fund, with the participation of financial institutions from both countries, to promote exports and a greater engagement by small and medium sized enterprises in our economic relationship.
Our goal for this 70th anniversary of Mexico-Canada relations is to transform our bilateral relationship into a true strategic partnership. This will directly benefit the daily lives of our peoples.
José Antonio Meade Kuribreña is Mexico’s Foreign Minister.